It turns out Eloy Jimenez's injury is much worse than "shoulder discomfort," as the White Sox described it Wednesday. He's headed for surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle that could possibly sideline him for the rest of the season.
There was some speculation, particularly from Dr. Jesse Morse of TheFantasyDoctors.com, that the injury could be a torn labrum, but this isn't any more promising. It's possible Jimenez is able to make it back for September, but depending where the White Sox are in the standings, they might opt to shelve him until next year.
Obviously, this crushes Jimenez's Draft Day value. He was going in the fourth round on average, offering a useful combination of batting average and power. The White Sox's internal options aren't so great either. Leury Garcia? Maybe Adam Engel when he makes it back from a hamstring injury. GM Rick Hahn actually brought up the possibility of prospect Andrew Vaughn debuting as a left fielder instead of a DH. He's normally a first baseman, so it would be putting a lot on the rookie.
Of course, this injury all but assures Vaughn will make the major-league roster. Things were trending that way anyway, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported Wednesday.
"Boy, he takes great at-bats, makes great adjustments. He's got all of the qualities," manager Tony La Russa said about the former third overall pick, who's batting .286 (14 for 49) with two homers and seven walks to compared to seven strikeouts this spring.
It be difficult to say stock up for Vaughn since he was already projected for full-time at-bats, but I can certainly say stock down for Jimenez, who's not even worth drafting now in most leagues. "He does things that really good hitters do. He can handle pitches, he really competes, never throws an at-bat away, uses the whole field. And he's got thump."
We talk about the Eloy Jimenez injury and Chris Towers' most drafted players on the Fantasy Baseball Today in 5 Podcast. And you can follow us to make sure you get the latest episodes right when they drop on Apple and Spotify.
When a fracture is better than a strain
Zac Gallen has a hairline fracture in his right forearm, which is better than the sort of forearm injury that might be a precursor to Tommy John surgery but nonetheless raises its own set of questions. Typically, a broken bone requires 6-8 weeks to heal, but a stress fracture might be less than that. An extended absence for a pitcher would normally require him to ramp up all over again, but Gallen will continue playing catch even in the earliest stages of his recovery.
Suffice it to say there is no timetable. I suspect his will be shorter than that of Carlos Carrasco's, who himself has no timetable for a torn hamstring, but with so little precedent for this sort of injury, I hesitate to say with great confidence. Maybe by the start of May if Gallen ramps up quickly, but maybe a bit later.
My initial inclination is to slot him just behind Dinelson Lamet as my 36th starting pitcher.
One inning down for Lamet
Speaking of Dinelson Lamet, he made his Cactus League debut Wednesday, firing one inning. The Padres have been ramping him up slowly after he ended last year with an elbow injury that might have required Tommy John surgery if he didn't shut things down.
His velocity was fine in the outing, but he threw only two sliders. His make-or-break pitch, which he featured more than 50 percent of the time last year, figures to be the most taxing on the elbow, which means he still has some significant hurdles to clear.
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Rosy outlook for Springer
Turns out George Springer, who was playing through mild tightness in his side, has a Grade 2 oblique injury, which sounds like the sort of injury that could sideline him for six weeks or more. But GM Ross Atkins says he might not even need an IL stint.
"His symptoms and all of his baseball movements and patterns are incredibly encouraging," Atkins said. "We're extremely optimistic about his strength, about his range of motion, especially his rotational movements, that he could be playing baseball very soon."
Maybe the Blue Jays aren't being entirely forthright here, but it sounds like the absence will be a relatively short one even if it does land Springer on the IL to begin the year. I've downgraded him a couple spots, but he still ranks ahead of Nick Castellanos and Austin Meadows for me.
Strasburg's calf scare
Stephen Strasburg was back on the mound Wednesday, making his first Grapefruit League start since suffering a calf injury that was so minor it didn't even disrupt his buildup, permitting him to throw 74 pitches in a simulated game over the weekend.
So what was the injury? A ruptured plantaris tendon. But, um ... he's not going to miss that?
"I guess you don't really need it," Strasburg said. "It was just one of those lucky things where it went away and wasn't a big issue. The doctor was pretty adamant about it, saying you don't really need it."
When asked if he was scared by the "ruptured," Stephen Strasburg said the doctor told him he'd need it if we still walked on all fours. But since we are now upright walkers — a sort of new thing, if you think about — he can get by without the tendon and doesn't foresee issues.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) March 25, 2021
How interesting! Are we sure that's the case, though, given that he walked five and struck out only one over his four innings Wednesday?
Yeah, pretty sure. It sounds like there was a mechanical issue that he's dealt with in the past and expects to clear up in his next bullpen session. These sorts of recalibrations are common in spring training. The fact he threw 83 pitches and has more or less a clean bill of health is of greater concern to me. Stock holding.
Tatis in the clear
The Fantasy Baseball-playing world held its collective breath when Fernando Tatis trotted off the field after making an awkward throw Wednesday, but it turns out the discomfort he was feeling in his left shoulder wasn't anything new.
"It comes and goes over the years," manager Jayce Tingler said. "He does a pretty good job of managing it. He's got a good feel for when it gets bad and when it's not too bad. ... We as a group just have to stay very on top of it."
Apparently, Tatis was lobbying to get back in the lineup Thursday, so you can draft him with confidence in the top five picks still.
Closer committee loses one
Rays bullpen ace (read: not closer) Nick Anderson was throwing just 89-92 mph Wednesday, down from his usual 95, and has been dealing with elbow discomfort for the past week. If he's destined for the IL to begin the year, it'll potentially put more save chances in the hands of Diego Castillo and/or Peter Fairbanks, but the Rays are the most committed of any team to the closer committee. Given that they had 12 different relievers record a save last year, the impact on any one pitcher will likely be minimal.
A new closer conundrum
Jose Leclerc is expected to miss significant time with an elbow injury, which opens the door for Matt Bush and/or Ian Kennedy to close for the Rangers. Manager Chris Woodward wasn't tipping his hand Monday, but general manager Chris Young did have some praise for Matt Bush, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2018.
"Matt has pitched this spring, has been phenomenal," Young said. "The work he has put in to rehab from surgery and put himself in position to make this club, the perseverance, and resilience, it's everything that I think we would want in terms of characteristics of players."
Bush has struck out six in four innings this spring, allowing two hits and one walk. I'd give him the slight edge over Kennedy, but neither figures to have a firm grip on the closer role or is a high priority on Draft Day.
Position battle winners and losers
- The Twins optioned outfielder Alex Kirilloff to the alternate training site Wednesday. The top prospect was the leading candidate to claim Eddie Rosario's old job in left field but wound up going just 4 for 31, necessitating the move. "What we really want is for Alex to start his career at the major-league level on a good note where he's feeling good, he's locked in, and he's ready to go and then never look back," manager Rocco Baldelli said. It leaves young slugger Brent Rooker to compete for playing time with Jake Cave and Luis Arraez in left field, but Kirilloff's demotion may be short-lived. Don't cash in your shares just yet.
- The Diamondbacks optioned Daulton Varsho to Triple-A Wednesday. The catcher/outfielder hybrid failed to take advantage of Kole Calhoun's torn meniscus, going 6 for 44 this spring. He's still the rare catcher-eligible player who's capable of across-the-board production (even stolen bases!), but it's asking too much to stash him outside of two-catcher leagues.
- Varsho's demotion would seem to solidify Ketel Marte's spot in center field, which would seem to suggest Josh Rojas is the intended starter at second base. Rojas, who hit .332 with 23 homers, 33 doubles, 33 steals and a 1.023 OPS as a minor-leaguer in 2019, has struggled in his brief opportunities in the majors so far. He made some lifestyle changes in the offseason, though, that he hopes will improve his energy level and has tweaked his stance this spring, going on to hit .345 (20 for 58) with three homers and a .958 OPS. He's worth a late-round flier if you need middle infield help.
- The Tigers have firmed up their starting rotation for the start of the year, awarding jobs to both Tarik Skubal and Julio Teheran. Skubal is the big one here, but the rookie seemed like a pretty safe bet after bolstering his secondary arsenal this offeason, adding a split-change and getting more comfortable with his breaking ball. He's a breakout candidate for me. Teheran is low-key interesting, though, given that he's clocking 92-93 mph with his fastball. That's what he was throwing back in 2016, when he was an All-Star for the Braves.
- Carlos Rodon, who struggled in his return from Tommy John surgery last year, has officially won a spot in the White Sox rotation thanks to a dominant spring in which he has struck out 10 in nine innings, giving up four hits and no walks. The left-hander is getting more spin on his fastball and has reworked his delivery, shoring up his control. "My mechanics have cleaned up a lot and taken a lot of stress off my body as a whole," he said. "It's less stress on my arm the way I'm throwing now than I was before, because I utilize my lower half better." Rodon has been a bit of a tease in the past but is deserving of another look in light of these developments.
- Bryse Wilson has apparently won the Braves fifth starter job over Kyle Wright, who showed promise with three consecutive quality starts to end last year. Wilson made an impression of his own, though, with six one-run innings against the Dodgers in the NLCS and has a 1.98 ERA in four appearances this spring. Still, Wilson isn't much of a strikeout pitcher and may have a short stay in the rotation with Mike Soroka ramping up to return from injury.
- Tejay Antone is expected to begin the year in the Reds bullpen, likely filling a multi-inning role. His bid for a rotation spot, which was always a bit of a long shot, came to an end when he left his March 14 start with a strained groin. Antone, who has big swing-and-miss potential with his slider, should still have Rotisserie value as a high-volume reliever and could get another chance to start down the line.
Other notes ...
- Athletics right-hander Daulton Jefferies, an under-the-radar prospect, has been under-the-radar awesome this spring, most recently striking out seven and walking none over four two-hit innings Tuesday. That's 20 strikeouts to three walks in 13 innings for him this spring. He stood out in particular for his control in the minors, striking out 93 while walking nine in 79 innings two years ago, and has seemingly overtaken A.J. Puk in the battle for the firth starter job. Time to start talking him up.
- If Jefferies isn't the pitcher who has seen his stock rise the most this spring, then it may be the Giants' Logan Webb, who struck out seven and walked none in five one-hit innings Tuesday. He's now up to 17 strikeouts compared to just three hits and one walk in 11 innings this spring. According to MLB.com, the Giants challenged him to improve his offspeed pitches his offseason, and now catcher Curt Casali is saying Webb's changeup is "just as good, if not better" than former teammate Luis Castillo's. "He's just getting better and better control and command of that pitch," manager Gabe Kapler said.
- Amir Garrett has been lights out since returning from a forearm issue, striking out all six batters he has faced. Meanwhile, Lucas Sims, who is Garrett's primary competition for the closer role, allowed two runs on three hits in his spring debut Tuesday. He's working his way back from a sore elbow.
- Top prospect Bobby Witt, who flirted with the Royals second base job before being reassigned to minor-league camp, is expected to get some time in the outfield this year, giving him another potential avenue to the majors.
- Indians manager Terry Francona raved to reporters about Nick Wittgren on Tuesday, leading some to speculate that the right-hander may be the new favorite to close. "Since the day he has arrived here, he has been nothing but a pro," Francona said. "He has been reliable, accountable and he is a leader. He has been a huge part of our bullpen and will continue to be." James Karinchak, the presumptive favorite who tied for the major-league lead with 17.7 K/9 last season, has had some trouble finding the strike zone this spring. He's still worth drafting ahead of Wittgren for now, but it's looking more like a handcuff situation.
- Josh Bell, a big offseason acquisition for the Nationals, continued his monstrous spring with his fifth home run Wednesday, giving him a .385 (15 for 39), but fellow first baseman Ryan Zimmerman upstaged him, homering twice to give him five home runs of his own. The 36-year-old is batting .474 (9 for 19) and might be earning a bigger share of the playing time with his performance, particularly since Bell, a switch-hitter, has struggled against lefties throughout his career.
- Victor Robles is looking all the more likely to begin the year as the Nationals leadoff man, according to MLB.com. He's batting a modest .263 this spring, striking out 15 times in 38 at-bats, but he's working with hitting coach Kevin Long to wait for his pitch and is hitting the ball harder as a result. "What I've seen is, he's taking pitches that he normally swings at -- which is a good sign -- and he's hitting the ball relatively hard," manager Dave Martinez said. "With that being said, he's still striking out and we kind of want him to put the ball in play. When he does put the ball in play, he's hitting the ball hard. His exit velo's been really, really impressive this spring." It still remains to be seen whether the 23-year-old will get on base enough to remain at the top of the lineup, but he should rebound as a base-stealer this year either way.
- Rays ace Tyler Glasnow was raving about his slider after using a new grip in an intrasquad game Monday. "Today was by far the best day my slider's been -- like, by a million," he said. "So I'm super comfortable with it. ... And it was just easier to throw for strikes, too. Just like a little shift, pretty easy, so I'm encouraged by it." The slider featured more horizontal break, helping to distinguish it from the curveball, and had more velocity, reaching 92 mph.
- With spring training drawing to a close, 2018 MVP Christian Yelich is showing no signs of the struggles that plagued him during the shortened 2020 season. He's 6 for 9 in his past four games, homering in two straight, and has struck out just four times in 20 at-bats overall. "He's in a good place," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.. "We're ready. He's ready to go. I wish that, from his perspective, the season starts tomorrow."
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